Climate action pledges could curb global warming to 2.1C, analysis shows

Pollution
Pollution (PA Archive)
11:38am, Tue 01 Dec 2020
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Action to tackle climate emissions announced by countries in recent months could help limit global warming to 2.1C, analysis suggests.

A new assessment by Climate Action Tracker (CAT) found that if governments meet all their commitments to cut greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050 it could limit temperature rises to 2.1C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

It puts the global climate goal in the Paris Agreement – to limit temperature rises to 1.5C – “within striking distance”, the experts behind the analysis said.

The assessment took into account recent announcements including China’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060, and president-elect Joe Biden’s proposal for the US to cut emissions to net zero by 2050.

In total, 127 countries which are responsible for around 63% of emissions are considering or have adopted net zero targets.

Five years on, it’s clear the Paris Agreement is driving climate action

Achieving net zero involves cutting greenhouse gases to as close to zero as possible and then “offsetting” any remaining pollution with measures such as planting trees.

But the CAT experts warned that goals for emission cuts by 2030 need to be considerably strengthened to get on track for net zero by mid-century.

Under the international Paris Agreement, countries agreed to limit warming to “well below” 2C and pursue efforts to curb it at 1.5C – seen as the threshold beyond which the worst impacts of climate change will be felt.

To stabilise the temperature at any level, global greenhouse gas emissions have to fall dramatically to zero overall, and to meet the 1.5C goal carbon pollution has to reach net zero by 2050.

Professor Niklas Hohne of NewClimate Institute, a Climate Action Tracker partner organisation, said: “Five years on, it’s clear the Paris Agreement is driving climate action.

“The Paris Agreement introduced the goal of global net zero greenhouse gas emissions, and now we’re seeing a wave of countries signing up to it. Can anyone really afford to miss catching this wave?”

“Not only is our warming projection for government climate pledges falling to just over two degrees, a level that puts the Paris Agreement 1.5C target within reach, but we’re also seeing a drop in projections for real world action.”

The emissions gap is huge. Short term targets are not a little bit off, they are totally off. Near-term action and policies need to be ramped up considerably

The CAT’s projection for warming under current policies has fallen from 3.6C in 2015 to 2.9C today.

That is because governments have implemented new policies, and there have been increases in renewables, falling use of coal, and lower economic growth assumptions before and because of the c coronavirus pandemic, the experts said.

But as current policies are not enough to avoid dangerous climate change, nations are expected to deliver new 2030 targets as part of the Paris Agreement by this year.

These “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) were due to be submitted ahead of the UN Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, which have been delayed to November 2021 due to the pandemic.

But it is hoped countries will present updated plans as part of a UN-UK online summit on December 12, with the UK expected to unveil its proposals shortly.

Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, the other CAT partner organisation, warned: “We see emissions continuing to rise through to 2030, which will not get them onto the kind of pathway that will allow governments to meet their ambitious net zero commitments.

“No large emitter has yet submitted a substantially updated NDC, and the emissions gap is huge. Short term targets are not a little bit off, they are totally off.

“Near-term action and policies need to be ramped up considerably.”

Kat Kramer, climate change lead at Christian Aid, said it was good news that climate pledges were bringing the world closer to the needed reductions, but “they still do not come close enough to the Paris goal of trying to limit warming to 1.5C, the maximum warming acceptable to the countries most vulnerable to climate change”.

She warned: “Long-terms goals are good but it’s clear that governments need to act more quickly in the short term and focus on a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, ending ecosystem destruction and building resilience of communities vulnerable to climate impacts.”

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